After the shock decision for Britain to exit the EU, there has been an endless supply of political uncertainty, which will continue until new policies have been decided upon and finalised. Along with the people. The stability of the UK economy is currently in question and the free movement across the European borders is in question too. This is having both a short and a potentially long-term impact on international students in the UK. It will take a minimum of two years for all decisions to be finalised and for Britain to fully exit the EU, and within this time of uncertainty, the relationship between international students and the UK could be greatly affected. The question is, is any of the damage that has been done irreparable?
Brexit and International Students:
Brexit has entered the higher education sector into ‘a period of uncertainty‘, and a shocking third of all international students in the UK surveyed, revealed that they are now less likely to select Britain as their country of choice to study in.
After the Brexit decision, there was a rapid decline of international students who have chosen to study at UK universities, this is according to the Office for National Statistics. Long-term study and university courses have felt the sting of this political outcome, as 41,000 fewer students chose to come to the UK to study, the vast majority (31,000) of these being non-EU students.
There has been a notable decrease in practices such as nursing from EU students, which has fuelled concerns surrounding the shortages within the NHS. This sharp decline in applicants from both EU and non-EU nationals, could be an indication that after the Brexit vote the UK has become a less appealing and considerably less attractive option to study in for those without British citizenship. These figures represent the lowest figures of international students choosing the UK as a place to study since 2002. Furthermore, these international students make up 22 per cent of the people who go through the British naturalisation process, and seek to partake in long-term immigration to the UK — something that is set to cause problems with the future economy.
So with this being said, why are less and less international students choosing to take their higher education in the UK?
Many international students believe that since the Brexit vote was finalised, the UK seems much less welcoming to non-UK nationals. The Liberal Democrats have stated that there has been an increase in xenophobic crime following the decision to leave the EU, which stems from a sense of nationalism and patriotism. This is one of the direct causes for international students to choose to study elsewhere. Although this may be the case now, there is no way to measure whether this will continue into the foreseeable future, or whether this problematic short-term result will be just that, short term.
International Students and the Economy:
Brexit has already had a huge impact on the UK economy over the past 12 months, and the value of the pound dips and fluctuates with every political decision that is made. Recent studies indicate that international students contribute £25billion to the UK economy during their undergraduate and postgraduate studies, so with the sharp decline of returning and new international students, government and university officials are becoming increasingly concerned about the impact this will have on the economy and also university funding. This is especially so given the recent cap on international students applying for a UK visa.
The Future of International Study:
It seems that the political turbulence and extremist attitudes in regards to immigration and international study, have become a concern for those who are seeking to study in the UK. In order to repair any damage that has been done, and to attract new international students, there needs to be a ‘genuine climate for genuine international students‘.
As Britain draws ever closer to exiting the European Union, it’s more important than it has ever been before for us to become an established, well-liked, and well-respected nation. All this could have positive implications on the value of the pound, the stability of the national economy, and the potential for global trading partners.